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Word to the Wives, A

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Word to the Wives, A

Published ca. 1955

How two women trick a husband into buying a new kitchen.

Run time 12:41
Producer Telamerica, Inc.
Sponsor American Gas Association, National Association of Home Builders, and The Woman's Home Companion
Audio/Visual Sd, C


A comical film where one housewife devises a plan for another to get a new kitchen. It is a happy age of shopping, but Jane's husband George doesn't understand the urgency in their need for a new house with a new kitchen. Much of the film is a voice-over by the housewife with the ideal kitchen -- who shows off her counters, clothes washer and dryer and invites Jane for a shopping spree, experiencing the "freedom to go shopping when the urge hits you" instead of being stuck in the kitchen. She devises a plot for Jane to leave George to take care of himself for two days and therefore win Jane a new house and kitchen.
The husband George goes through a sequence of kitchen adventures: Mixing and overcooking on the stove, manly lemon squeezing for lemonade, wrestling with an overcrowded refrigerator, garbage bag breaking as he struggles to take it out, yelling a tirade at the son for using the hot water while he was doing dishes, and struggling to open the kitchen cabinets which need to be tapped underneath with a hammer.
The other housewife invites them over for dinner and the husbands discuss the garbage incinerator and the hot water heater and sell George on the idea of a new house.
Good ideal kitchen shots
Shots of cars driving up to homes
Ends with George's narration about being tricked or not and encouraging the viewer to have "Happy Homebuilding!"

Ken Smith sez: Svelte, perfect-looking Jane Peters and her equally svelte, perfect-looking friend are sipping coffee in their Paris original housedresses in the unnamed friend's modern kitchen. "I'm so proud of it it's almost indecent!" Jane's friend proclaims, wiggling one of her perfectly-shaped nails. She suggests that Jane go shopping with her on a spur-of-the-moment "small spree" (to buy more stunning housedresses, no doubt), but Jane sadly refuses. "I haven't got a dream kitchen to make things easier," she sighs. "Mine's strictly the nightmare-type."
Jane's friend is shocked, arching her perfectly-shaped eyebrows, shaking her perfectly-coiffed hair, and turning the corners of her perfectly-shaped lips down into a pout. Why doesn't Jane's husband move her out of that "older house" of theirs and into a freshly-built new one?, she asks, one with a modern kitchen that offers "freedom from uneccesary drudgery to go shopping when the urge takes you"? He certainly should, they agree, and the two women concoct a "plot" to make it happen. Jane has to visit her sick mother in Cleveland; she'll be gone for a couple of days. "Don't get TOO far ahead in your housework," Jane's friend winks. "Oh, no!" Jane replies. "I COULDN'T...."
Now we cut to George Peters as he struggles in Jane's kitchen. George -- brilliantly played by Darren McGavin -- is a slack-jawed mouth-breather who prefers to communicate either through grunts and ughs or by yelling at the top of his voice. His Neanderthal nature is understandable; after all, George doesn't have the priviledge of working in a kitchen "designed for efficiency and convenience." After two days of battling an outdated stove and water heater, sticky cabinets and ice cube trays, and a garbage disposal system that isn't automatic, George not only buys Jane her new kitchen, but a whole new "dream house" to go with it! The film ends happily for all, and Darren encourages viewers to visit a representative of their local homebuilder's association. "Believe me," he chuckles, "a few minutes now can lead to a whole lifetime of happiness. Happy homebuilding!"
Features appliances and equipment from Republic Steel Kitchens, Caloric, Whirlpool, Ruud Manufacturing Company, and The Formica Company.
Promotes an all-gas kitchen and laundry. American Gas Association offered prints of this film for sale to gas utilities to help them coax builders to incorporate kitchens into their new homes.

Sexism Gender stereotypes Houses and homes Appliances Cooking Spouses Husbands Wives Couples Marriage


Reviewer: Tru Leigh - favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - December 8, 2011
Subject: Hysterical
Now I know how Darren McGavin got the role in "A Christmas Story".
Reviewer: ERD. - favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - November 20, 2009
Subject: Fun to watch
"Word to the Wives" was fun to watch. Lifestyles have changed a great deal since that era. Of course a kitchen like that must have been very expensive to have, but many people of the 1950's hoped that someday they could achieve such affleunce.
Reviewer: proacting - favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - November 10, 2009
Subject: Missing Janet Riley
Janet Riley is one of the most talented actresses to ever work on Broadway. She opted for a family life after magnificent performances on The Moon is Blue and The Tender Trap. It is a delight to have this visual memory of her elegance and beauty, although the clip certainly does not show the range her histrionic talent.
Reviewer: blackpimp - favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - April 15, 2008
Subject: Hottest Housewife of the 50's!
When I read "Marsha Hunt" I couldn't get this video fast enough! I first saw her in 1959's 'Blue Denim' and immediately fell in love with her. She's been in over 100 movies. from the 1930's to 2006. In my opinion, one of the most beautiful women ever.

Thank you, Mr. Prelinger, for adding this bit of ephemera to the world.
Reviewer: BondoFox - favoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - November 12, 2007
Subject: Interesting, if not stereotypical
Typical, the wife -- who has no job -- assumes the money grows on trees for new appliances and anything else she wants. She should be lucky she has a roof over her head and the means she has now to chill or cook food. Lucky for her George is a good husband, otherwise she would've been punished big time.
Reviewer: Wakashimazu - favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - July 18, 2007
Subject: Egads...
Talk about 1950s stereotypes! So Jane wants to have a modern kitchen just like her friend does, in order to have more time to go shopping (Gods forbid they use the extra time to, say, take some college courses? Get a career?).

You also have the stereotypical bumbling husband (played by Darren McGavin of 'A Christmas Story') who is clueless in the kitchen (like making rice is that complicated?)

It does have good historical value, as why I gave it 5 stars...
Reviewer: Insanity Poop - favoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - May 15, 2006
Subject: Anoter fine example of the 1950s mentality
Opening Credits:

A Woman's Home Companion presents A Word to the Wives

Starring Marsha Hunt, Darren McGavin, Janet Riley, and Scott McKay.
Produced by Telamerica, Inc.

Producer: Edmund M. Tate
Director: Norman Lloyd
Writer: Jerome Brondfield
Camera: William Steiner

The movie opens with an exterior shot of a 1950s home, with the following narration: "It wasn't really a plot against George Peters, but I'll admit, it might have looked that way the morning his wife Jane stopped by for coffee. We just been in our house two weeks and I was still ecstatic over everything. Especially my dream kitchen."

The two wives discuss their lives and kitchens. Jane cant go on a shopping spree to cheer herself up because she doesnt have a dream kitchen to make her life as easy as her friends. The two come up with plot to leave Janes husband George and son home for a couple of days while she watches a relative. This way, George will see just how badly she needs a new kitchen and home.

George is then left to his own devises, which is to say, not much. He boils his rice, fails to wash the dishes, and cant figure out why the cabinet refuses to open with his arm in front of it.

After two days, Jane returns to open arms and a mop. Later that evening the couple visit Janes friend for a dinner party and meet the person who built their dream home. George arranges a home of his own and the story ends happily every after.

Closing dialog:

"Well folks, I'll leave it up to you whether the gals tricked me or not. But that's another story. This new dream house is a happy ending to our story. Why don't you drop around and talk to the men who can make your dream of a new home, come true. The best and most reputable builders in your area are here to help you. They are standing by right now in the booth, sponsored by your local home builder's association to discuss plans and prices with you. Believe me, a few minutes now can lead to a whole lifetime of happiness. Happy home building."

Ending Credits:

The kitchen and laundry in this film were featured in The Woman's Home Companion.

Cabinets by Republic Steel Kitchens
Built-in automatic gas range and disposal by Caloric
Automatic washer and gas dryer by Whirlpool
Monel Duo-Temp automatic gas water heater by Ruud Mfg. Co.
Counter tops by The Formica Co.

Some memorable quotes:

"Whatever it is, Ive got just the cure for it! There's a sale at Watsons. A new hat would be an ideal tonic for you. I'm going down this afternoon for a small spree."

"Freedom from unnecessary drudgery. Freedom to go shopping when the urge hits you--or when there's a sale going on."

"Now why should you have to lay out everything all nice and ready for George and Jimmy, down to the last egg and can of salmon."

"Automatic flour dispenser. Very handy. Let me show you how it works."
Reviewer: Spuzz - favoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - March 4, 2005
Subject: Waaa waa waaaaaaaaa....
A young houswife shows off her curiously looking kitchen (watch those shades!) to a Nicole Kidman look-a-like named Jane Peters. Her friend loves her new kitchen, and Jane is envious of it. Instead of killing her, Jane and her friend think of the novel idea of leaving her husband and her son alone to fend for themselves and realize what a new kitchen would do for them. The husband of course, can't cook, and is prone to amusing pratfalls. The husband in this piece overacts broadly just to get some yuks from the men in the audiece no douvt, while the women cluck their tongues in agreement. Soon afterwards, the husbands all agree that a new kitchen will be just what the house needs! What, will he learn how cook all of a sudden?? Very curious..
Reviewer: typoman - favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - March 3, 2005
Subject: that's the guy from a christmas story
The goofy, easily frustrated husband is the same guy from the movie A Christmas Story: Darren McGavin (I think) if nothing else this is fun to watch and realize it is him and virtually the same character.
Anyways, this is really one that shows the stereotypical stupid-around-the-kitchen man.
Reviewer: PreliViewerKid86 - favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - October 20, 2004
Subject: Oh George!
Was it just me, or did George seem downright homicidal after his wife left. I was especially frightened when junior decided to hand the hammer over to his father. This film was real keen though. So keen that it almost seems indecent.
Reviewer: Marysz - favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - February 5, 2004
Subject: Longing for the Fifties Dream House
In A Word to the Wives (sponsored by America's Homebuilders), housewife Jane Peters visits a friend in her new ranch house and complains about her "nightmare" kitchen. Her friend has a gleaming new Âdream kitchen with steel cabinets and an automatic flour dispenser. She suggests that Jane "trick" her husband into buying her a new house: go visit her mother in Cleveland and leave hubby and son to fend for themselves. Disaster ensues when JaneÂs husband George tries to cook himself and his son dinner. He's so incompetent he can't even open the kitchen cabinets by himself. When the Peters go the to their friendÂs new house for a housewarming party, the hostess prepares a delicious dinner typical of the 1950sÂbaked ham with grape jelly and mustard dressing and a sweet potato casserole with pineapple and marshmallows. George is sold! He buys Jane a new house. Now Jane has time to indulge in the only activities this film could imagine for women outside of housework and child-raising: shopping and playing golf. Ironically, the Âold (circa 1920s) house that Jane is so anxious to move out of is what today would be considered a beautiful vintage home, while the new split level house they move into looks nondescript and drab. For all its crassness, thereÂs still something touching about this film. The women take an innocent pleasure in all the conveniences of the Âmodern home. In her new laundry room, JaneÂs friend takes a lumpy bathmat out of the washing machine and exclaims, ÂThis setup makes any day washday! She puts it in the dryer and says, ÂAnd I can do my drying in any kind of weather! Poor Jane probably has to use a wringer washer and hang her clothes out on the clothesline to dry. Can we blame her for wanting something better for herself?
Reviewer: Steve Nordby - favoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - December 14, 2003
Subject: "I'm so proud it's almost indecent of me"
Drab Jane Peters drops by for coffee with her well dressed, stylish, and over-made-up friend. Jane marvels at her wonderful new house, so they cook up a scheme to get Jane's husband to buy a new house. This 13 minute sitcom appears to have been intended to be shown at home shows to display the wonders of late 1950's "dream homes," you know, the ones with hot water and ice makers. The inept dad is played by very young Darren McGavin in a style similar to the dad he played in "A Christmas Story" in 1983.
Reviewer: cashel - favoritefavoritefavorite - December 12, 2003
Subject: suburbia circa 1955
the makers of this film intended it be viewed seriously. But now 50 years later, it is hopelessly outdated. With changes in family roles and income distribution, I doubt that todays audience could identify with the fictional characters ,However the film is valuble in illustrating social history,,,On another level, the film can be enjoyed as a mildly amusing comedy.. Good photography.
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